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Forecasting the 2020 depth chart

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A look at the Cardinals roster heading into the offseason

2019 NLDS Game 3 - Atlanta Braves v. St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Twenty one days down, 109 to go until the next Cardinals game. The MLB offseason. A desolate vacuum devoid of baseball for many months on end. Major sad boi hours. Whatever you call it, the aforementioned period of time is upon us–and here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Before we fully transition into the annual apocalyptic state of affairs that is baseball bloggers mustering together capital c Content™️ (I hope you enjoy “the Cardinals should sign [insert big name free agent]” coming soon to a website or seven near you!), it would be a worthwhile exercise to take proverbial inventory with regards to where St. Louis’ roster stands entering the winter.

Using the plate appearance and innings pitched allocations from FanGraphs’ depth charts–a few executive decisions of my own doing, notwithstanding–I assembled a rough sketch for what a hypothetical 2020 Opening Day depth chart might look like if the Cardinals were to only have the players on the current 40-man roster at their disposal.

A projected depth chart for the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals

Some brief takeaways from the above graphic:

  • For as much as it may have been a strength for the Cardinals down the stretch in 2019, the starting rotation is presently marred by several lurking question marks. The first notable one is Carlos Martinez, who, with Jordan Hicks slated to miss a substantial portion of next year, would likely slide back into the closer role if deemed physically unable to return to starting. Meanwhile, the largest disparity between ERA and FIP among all qualified starters was Dakota Hudson by a landslide (1.58, with no other hurlers greater than 1.07), which would suggest that regression towards the mean is to be expected going forward. Adam Wainwright, going on 39 next August, will presumably re-sign to provide innings out of the rotation. Unless the Cardinals add a starting pitcher this offseason, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Austin Gomber, Génesis Cabrera and possibly Alex Reyes (who I omitted due to uncertainty health-wise) are in line to compete for a rotation spot when camp breaks north.
  • The Cardinals’ bullpen was one of the stronger units in the National League in 2019. With the club already committing approximately $160 million to the Opening Day payroll, it seems unlikely they would ink any relievers to a large contract. It also remains to be seen how the addition of a 26th man on the active roster beginning next year will affect teams’ roster construction and in-game strategy decisions.
  • The Cardinals will be hoping for quick progression from their young outfielders in 2020, especially if Marcell Ozuna departs in free agency. One name not on my depth chart forecast that the Cardinals are anticipating contributions from is former first-round draft pick Dylan Carlson, who posted a 142 and 161 wRC+ at AA and AAA, respectively, last season.
  • A potential X factor for the 2020 offense could be Matt Carpenter. His wRC+ dipped to 95 after ranging from 117 to 146 every season since his rookie campaign in 2012. Carpenter, Tommy Edman and Yairo Muñoz all offer defensive versatility around the infield. One option is that Carpenter and Edman’s splits at the plate would lend themselves to a third base platoon with Muñoz serving as Paul DeJong’s primary backup at shortstop.